Several Questions and my Answers


Recently I received several questions through MTV. I also received some personally. Here are those questions and my answers:

Question 1.

Please post this doubt in the new column. My doubt is regarding our view about non orthodox churches. Heterodox churches like Roman Catholic or English Protestant Churches and other Pentecostal churches do pray to Our Lord. Some of them do even idol worship. They do have saints in their church and they do have miracles happening. What is our view on these? Do their prayers answered by our Lord even though their belief is not orthodox? If yes, then what is our merit of being an orthodox Christian?

Reply 1,

Your use of the term Heterodox may not be a wise way of referring to other Churches. When you use it to call other Churches, you are claiming that you know all the truth. When you claim that you know all truth, you are making yourself god.

Regarding the faith of other Churches, we have to be respectful towards them. It does not mean that you have to follow them. You believe according to the wisdom and knowledge given to you by God Almighty. We have no right to judge others. When Peter asked about what would happen to John, Jesus told Peter that Jesus would do what he likes with John. But for Peter he may follow Jesus without minding much about others (John 21:20-22).  So it is not our business to ask what will happen to them or their prayers. Our duty is to follow the path God has shown to us sincerely and with dedication. As for the Catholic Church, for your information, they are not worshiping idols. We must learn from them what they are doing.

Question 2.

1.       The hymn when bow the cross, before service of burial of cross

We adore the cross which has brought us salvation, for our souls and like the thief we cry out “Christ, remember us when you come into your kingdom”!

2.       The Prayer on the North side during adoration of cross

Grant us O lord that we may offer true worship in spirit and truth  to your adorable life giving cross.

The questions here are (i).  How come the cross brought, salvation of our souls/mankind ? to my understanding It is the sacrificial death of Jesus on cross brought salvation to our souls/mankind. (ii) The offering of true worship in spirit and truth is to be submitted the Lord Jesus (who is the truth and Spirit) and not the cross.  (iii) Is the cross life giving, how? (The life and resurrection is Lord Jesus)

Answer 2.

First of all Cross by itself does not save any one. It is Christ who died on the cross saves people. What is said in the prayer is Athinale or through the cross. There are two things: one cross: is the symbol of selfless and vicarious love that in itself becomes salvation. So cross in any person’s life will bring salvation to others and that is salvation to the sufferer. Second, Cross itself went through a transformation. A symbol of death became symbol of life. This is salvation. Through the following of the method of cross we are saved. Second: No one is worshipping the cross, we only adore, that means respecting. When we respect the cross, we respect the idea of the cross. Three: Life is given by God and cross is the medium through which God worked out that.

Question 3.

The description given about Melchizedek by Your Grace in one of your articles is very interesting. After reading it, I remembered, I had read an article by one of our Priests saying Melchizedek is Jesus Christ Himself. Is it a correct interpretation? Could Your Grace please shed some light into this as the one Your Grace has given does not tally with it?

Reply 3.

Melchizedek represents only one of the elements in Jesus Christ. Priesthood among the Jewish community came through family descendancy. But Melchizedek’s name is not in the family tree. It is explained by the author of the book of Hebrews (it is now generally agreed that it was not Paul who wrote this epistle) that he has no beginning and no end (Read chs. 6 and 7 of Hebrews). The author says that there are things that are beyond the law. He asks why Abraham had to give tithe to Melchizedek. Even though Levite priests are the once who would receive tithe, Levi had to give tithe to Melchizedek through Abraham even before they were born. Jesus was a priest and was from the tribe of Judah and not from Levi. Thing need not happen according to law, rather it will happen according to the will of God.

It is thus evident that Hebrews was comparing Jesus with the priesthood of Melchizedek. He was much higher than Melchizedek. Melchizedek was not Jesus.

Question 4.

GREETINGS TO THIRUMENI

THOUGH I SING THE FOLLOWING THREE LINES IN MALAYALAM ON EVERY SUNDAY MORNING PRAYER, I NEVER COULD UNDERSTAND THE MEANING OF THOSE LINES.

 

KUNJADINE VREKSHAM NALKI

THEEKAL PARAJALAM NALKI

ESTHEERA MALSYAVUMEKI

KANYAKSHEPAKARE MOONNUM

PARIHASATHODU VEEKSHIPPU

 

Answer 4.

This hymn is a praise of Mother Mary. This was probably written in the context of questions raised against Christian faith in virgin birth of Jesus. We believe that Mary was a virgin even when she conceived and gave birth to Jesus. The poet brings several examples from the Bible to say that God does things beyond the natural way. This is what happened when a lamb was given by the bush (Genesis 22:13), when water burst out from fiery rock (Exodus 17:6 ff,) and when Esthira coin was given by the fish (Matthew 17:27). The poet says that these three examples mock at those who criticize the faith in virgin birth.

 

Question 5.

Can you please explain the song Aadyacharyatham kaikkondu Aharon Moosayodonnichu………………?I

Answer 5.

Many of the liturgical hymns of our Church come from a pious meditative mind of the Church fathers and monks. Of course the ideas behind them will be biblical in content. But at the same time they will also be meditative in nature and may not always point to strict theological expressions. Here in this particular hymn, the singer is deriving a theme from the Bible to explain the priesthood of Jesus Christ. We all know that Jesus did not have to receive it from any one, as he himself was God and one who ordains all priests. But the author wanted to say that there is continuity in the priesthood of Jesus from the very beginning of Israel’s history. Priesthood in Israel begins with Aaron the brother of Moses. The hymn says, Aaron received priesthood along with Moses in the beginning. Moses gave that to Zechariah the father of John the Baptist and the Baptist got it from his father. John in turn gave it to Jesus. Jesus gave it to his disciples and his disciples gave it to various tribes and communities. Two important themes are presented here. One, the present day priesthood is a continuity of the one Moses and Aaron received from God and it passed through Jesus Christ. Two, Some thing that started with one or two persons has now spread all over the world and among every community in the world.

 

Question 6.

Could you please explain the difference between PRATHIKSHANAM (Procession) and RASA. In northern diocese we are using Prathikshanam where as churches in southern diocese use RASA  for procession in connection with PERUNNAL.

Answer 6.

In practice both Pradakshanam and Rasa are the same in Orthodox Church. But these are two words from two traditions. Pradakshinam comes from Indian context which was adopted by Christian Church for taking up a procession around a village or a region for the blessing of the whole area. Literally it means going around. Rasa on the other hand is from the western’s Church’s context. This is a procession with the host in a specially made casket. Probably this term came to Orthodox Church from the Catholic Church.

Question 7.

Is it unscriptural for a Christian to be cremated?

Answer 7.

No it is not. Even when it is cremated it goes back to the soil. Orthodox Church Synod has permitted cremation when it is urgently needed with individual permission of the Bishop.

Question 8.

Is Maccabees 3 & 4 are canonical to Oriental Orthodox Churches. The History of Martha Shmooni, Her Seven Children and Mar Eliazer was written anywhere else.

 

Anwer 8.

We generally follow the Greek Septuagint Bible which has all the four book of Maccabeus. No I am not aware of any place else the stories of Morth Shmooni and her seven children and Mar Eliazer are written.

Question 9.

Can you explain and give Bible words/chapter with reference about child baptism?

Answer 9.

It will not be very wise to ask for Bible reference for each and every practice we see in the Church. Some times we may not see any reference at all, some times we may see indirect reference and some times we may see direct reference. Church is a community that is lead by the Holy Spirit to “all truth” (John 15:26) and while we are lead to all truth, we may know new and better things as we move along. So we may find better things that are not then found during the time of the Biblical writers. If we insist that we have to find reference for every thing in the Bible, we are denying the working of the Spirit in the life of the community in history. We do not have any reference in the Bible to say that marriage should be done by the Church and should be between man and woman. But we assume that wedding is a holy sacrament that has to be blessed by the Church. We do not have any reference in the Bible that burial should be done by the Church. On the contrary there is a reference to say that “burial should be done by the dead” (Matthew 8:22). There is no reference to say that we have to conduct a house blessing. On the other hand we have an indirect reference to that in the form of Jesus’ visit to Zacchaeus’ home (Luke 19:9). There are other issues too.

Now regarding infant baptism, Orthodox Church allows only children of Christian parents to be baptized at infancy. Otherwise people have to be old enough to understand what is going on. Infants of families are baptized because they are the heirs of the promise their parents received through matrimony which is a blessing equal to that Adam and Eve received during creation “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1: 26-28). It was the practice of the Church from very early times to baptize infants of families that were converted. The Church quotes the passage in Acts 2:38-39 to support this. Also passages like Acts 16:15 and 33 where it is written that the whole household was baptized. If only adults were baptized, it would have been said that husband and wife were baptized. The term household is a technical term that mean, including children. We may also quote 1 Cor. 1:16 which has the same situation. You may visit my blog https://yuhanonmilitos.wordpress.com/2009/09/15/infant-communion/

Question 10

Please clarify these lines, we sing on Good Friday, at the exaltation of the cross

” Yakkobamaja palanavan

Thazhuki vanangiyatham dantam

… Sleeba thannude drushtantham.”

Answer 10

The only reference to Jacob’s staff or dantam is in Gen. 32:10. It was with this single staff he went away and now he has multiplied in to two companies. If we apply Gen. 32: 10-11 as the basis, then we can say that, some thing simple with God’s help has become a source of great blessings and abundance. So we may say, Jacob when he left Isaac’s home had only a staff of the shepherd with him. But God blessed him and helped him use that the shepherd was blessed by God, though he had only a staff of the shepherd with him. He worked for Laban as a shepherd and became a very rich man. We may also be blessed by this staff, the cross. (The ‘staff of Jacob’ in science is called the cross-staff which was used in olden times in the field of astronomy and for navigation. In medieval star charts Orion was named Jacob).

Question 11.

Can you explain the difference between our faith and Catholic faith regarding Holy Spirit?

Answer 11.

The faith in the Holy Spirit is one of the things that separated the western Church and the Eastern Church. We believe that the H. Spirit has only one source, that is the Father. But we receive it through the Son. The western Church would say that there are two sources, the Father and the Son. This is called the Filioqe clause. The word taken is used in the sense that received. Otherwise it would have said that proceeds from the Father and the Son. It is a question of how we understand the word ‘taken’, It is not purappedal, but given. So there is no confusion.

Question 12.

Respected Thirumeni,

The system we follow at our Church is to keep the Evengelion table on the north side of the Thronose on the ground that Son sits on the right side of Father who is facing us. But in many other places this is on the south side. Both these can not be right unless convenience is the criterion. Any specific guidelines from church fathers?

In our church, Bishops and Rambans do not eat meat and this is accepted as a sign of their celibacy. But, I feel this is not so among the Bishops from Antiokya. Studying the books about our fathers in the early centuries, there are many or even most of them being vegetarians. They avoid not meat alone, but other non veg items too. May be true spirituality do not have much to do with these, I would like to know whether there is any teaching on these by any of our ancient fathers. The Catholics are totally different. I have personally seen their priests celebrating Holy Qurbana immediately after taking break fast, whereas we do not dare even to dream such a situation. I have read some time back about the need of fasting before Holy Qurbana  as ascertained by some early fathers. But being a total vegetarian or to avoid at least meat has not come across in such books.

In many of our churches, during Holy Qurbana, when the letter by St Paul is read about half way, one assistant comes forward and collects the candle from the main alter assistant and hands over to him the bowl containing incense. I do not know whether this is right or wrong, but this is really bad to see from down. During my younger days, the chief assistant used to have a candle with him till the Evengelion reading is completed. But these days, he is standing with the Dhoopakutty alone when the celebrant reads the gospel. Do we have any specific instructions on this? Is there any reason to change the old system? Can we say this is right and the other is wrong or the other way round?

Answer 12

 

1. If we follow the Syriac style the Gospel table has to be at the middle of the entrance of the Madbaha all the time except for during the H. Qurbana after the Gospel reading. When people come for H. Qurbana they will come to front and kiss the Gospel book and go to their place to pray. For the reading of the Gospel, the table will be lifted and taken to the Madbaha. After the reading it will be placed on the right hand side of the altar that is the south side. Each one does things according to his/her wisdom.

 

Eating meat and fish has nothing to do with being a bishop. In Anticohean Church earlier bishops used to be from married priests and they never were vegetarians. Later when the Church started having bishops only from monks they followed their earlier style of not eating meat. This practice is mainly cultural. In Turkey monks and bishops do not eat meat. But they eat fish even during lent. But in Arab countries, bishops eat meat. There is nothing spiritual about it.

Many a time what the altar assistants do distract the attention of the worshippers. But what to do? We do not have a standardized system on that. We in Thrissur diocese have tried to standardize it through providing a handbook. When the epistles are read, there is no need for the assistant to carry any candle.

Question No. 13.

The recent observations as well as some rulings from the courts are causing real concern for ordinary members who are not engaging themselves too much with such issues.

The similar rulings in Kandanadu and Puthancruz cases are causes of real worry not because they went against us, but because we failed in satisfying a legally required obligation. Why did our advocates fail to satisfy this? The lethargy, albeit technical, has done irreparable damage and the opposite faction has gained a lot of mileage out of this failure from our advocates. Who is accountable for these lapses? Has anybody in our higher level tried to fix accountability on the erring advocate? How can we take shelter behind technicalities? Fr Konatt has been repeating this issue of technicality too often that one feels that technical failure is moral victory!

The ruling in the Kothamangalam case too happens to be a failure of our advocates. The observations made by the Judge that the issues on which we sought relief are irrelevant with the 1995 SC ruling is something the advocates should have known prior to moving the HC. Has the advocate done this just to collect his fees? The Judge even seems to have commented that we have not applied for getting the 1995 verdict executed. One fails to understand all these.

Looking into the above, there is every reason to believe that there are “viruses” entered into our think tank and all our plans move against our own genuine interests. The real surprise is that we are NOT MUCH CONCERNED.

Coming once again to the Kolencherry episode, the gains we earned by the fasting seem to have slowly lost. Despite a ruling clearly in our favor, we have been sitting across the negotiating table as equals with the other side. Before we earned the ruling in our favor, we had a 3 to 1 position. With the favorable ruling, we are on a 1 to 1 position that both factions cannot enter the church for worship. Now, my sincere hope is that newspapers will not come with a piece that the Collector’s letter we hold as a token of our ‘then’ victory is fraudulently created by us.

Thirumeni, we are really worried and so thought of sharing some feelings. It seems to move the way that a comment made by a Jacobite priest that “our Bava” will manage to settle Kolencherry issue as per his plans, is turning realistic.

Answer 13.

These rulings are not because of the failure of our lawyers. This is the problem with our legal system. Till probably 10 years no one said the Church cases have to be argued under section 92 of CPC. Starting from first case in 1974 this has been the case. Only recently they started arguing that Churches are public property cases have to be file according to section 92. Ten years back they manipulated the system and one district judge started giving orders accordingly. Unfortunately one High Court judge also thought so. But there are other judges who do not want that way. Once a case is file we have to follow it up or withdraw it. If we withdraw, then it will become another issue. So what we have done is file parallel cases under section 92 CPC. Still we get order in both ways. If a particular case is rejected on lack of section 92, we will take up the parallel one filed under section 92. There are several ways of manipulating the legal system, which we fail to understand unless we really are in the job. People who are viewing things from outside will not be able to understand, and those who run the matter will not be able to explain this for fear of being interpreted as against the court to face contempt of court. It is a very difficult job in the judicial system. Again many of the judges are of the opinion that there is no point in pronouncing any order because they are not being executed. We are in a fix.

 

 

 

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First Snow of the Year in NY


Principles of Life


6 PRINCIPLES OF LIFE…., the 4th one is best! That’s why we need a weekend or midweek break, for stress recovery : 

 

  • No point using limited life to chase unlimited money.
  • No point earning so much money you cannot live to spend it.
  • Money is not yours until you spend it.
  • When you are young, you use your health to chase your wealth; when you are old, you use your wealth to buy back your health. Difference is that, it is too late.
  • How happy a man is, is not how much he has but how little he needs.
  • No point working so hard to provide for the people you have no time to spend with.

 

We come to this world with nothing; we leave this world with nothing!

 

Ladies Only!


Thrissur diocese of the Orthodox Church has decided to make it mandatory in all the Churches in the diocese to allow only women to read Old Testament lessons prior to public celebration of the Holy Eucharist. It was decided by the priests’ assembly of the diocese and has been implemented through a Kalpana from the Metropolitan and is in effect now.  Happy Hours our sisters!!

A Memorial Lecture


I delivered a memorial lecture at Marthoma Syrian Church, Kozhenchery. Here is the text:

Sermon on Luke 18:18 ff


(Sermon originally posted in ICON)

Eligibility for Eternal Life/ Kingdom of God: A Meditation on Luke 18:18-27

The Gospel reading for sixth Sunday after the feast of the Cross comes from the Gospel according to St. Luke 18:18-27. This story is about the ruler who sought “eternal life”. All texts that are prescribed by the Church for reading during this season would suggest a new culture; ‘Culture of the Cross’. In all these readings principles for a genuine Christian life are presented. These principles are drawn with the cross as the foundation. This particular event also gives one of those principles.

Ch. 18 begins with a couple of parables. They do not have much relation with our text. But the immediately previous section (Vs. 15-17) has some thing to talk about this story. As in the case of other chapters, Luke has collected in this chapter also incidents and sayings from his source and compiled them with a lose outline under the general outline involving the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

This is the second story that talks about some one asking about eternal life in Luke. It is not clear whether Luke took this story or the one in ch. 10 (25-28) from Mark 10:17 ff (this is on the assumption that Mark was the first Gospel). While Mark has certain man asking about eternal life, Luke 10 has a lawyer and Luke 18 has a ruler. Another parallel story is seen in Matthew 19:16ff. In Matthew also the question comes from ‘certain man’. Generally they all agree on much of the content. Luke 10 has more differences among them. In our present passage, the section that begins with v.18 should end only with v.30. But for the Church which wants to make a point wishes to end the passage with v.27. Further dealing of Peter’s statement and Jesus’ answer to it are not quite important for the Church under the circumstance. The point is well made with two statements in vs.24 and 27. (‘How hard it is for rich man to enter the Kingdom of God’ and ‘that which is impossible with man is possible with God’).

There are several sayings regarding Kingdom of God and conditions to enter into it in the Gospels. Most of them are in Matthew’s Gospel. Luke has a couple of them and two among them are in this chapter. The other one is in 9:62. It is interesting to note that the first among these two appear just before this passage in 18:16. This talks about the innocence, trust, and dependence with which one will be made eligible to enter the Kingdom (like a child). The third and last one is in 18:29. It tells us that entry in to the Kingdom is not on human effort; rather by the grace of God (Apostle Paul has used this theme extensively). It is for this grace one has to put the trust and dependence on God. In this context our passage becomes an example for the trust and dependence. It is worth noting that on two Sundays back (4th Sunday after the feast of the Cross; St. Luke 16:9-18), the reading talked about a similar issue. This passage told us that one cannot serve both wealth and God simultaneously just as one cannot serve two masters the same time.

Here in our present passage (18-27) the basic question is not whether one obeys all the commandments or not. Rather, the question is ‘what is the attitude of the person who follows the laws’. Obeying the law can only be an expression of faith in and relation with God. It is not done because of fear or compulsion, rather because of love and trust. So the word ‘obedience’ itself will become extinct to have ‘love expression’ in our language instead.

The ruler that came to Jesus was a rich man and his attitude to wealth was expressed through his walking out from the presence of Jesus when he was asked to sell all his processions to be given to the poor. He stated that he has been obeying all the commandments childhood onwards. Here God (Son of God) is testing him with an even greater commandment or the first commandment in its true sense. When you say ‘there shall not be any other god than your God’ it does not mention just the gods of other communities. It certainly refers to any thing that can distance oneself from God and what His mind asks for.

Jesus requires the person to go beyond the written law and to follow the mind of God expressed every moment in his life. This is how law becomes dynamic and contextual. The mind of God is that human should put their complete trust in God and follow him all the way.

Few days back I was talking to a member of our congregation, a retired high ranking police officer. He talked about a highly qualified and efficient doctor working in one of the cities in Kerala. This doctor collects huge amount as fee and recommends expensive tests, many a time for no valid reason, from which he gets big commission. Obviously this doctor is a very rich man. He has a huge house and loving family. But since he is addicted to his job that brings him high income, he spends hardly three hours at home. He even sleeps in the personal chamber attached to his office in the hospital. My questions: why he should have such a big house and a loving family since he spends only few hours there? Why he should have so much money since he spends most of his time in the hospital? Of course I am not the one who raised this question first. Our Lord raised this question several centuries back (Luke 12:20). This is still a relevant question before every person who fails to live quality life with mutual love, care and fellowship to make money and add on material wealth. The issue is not whether this person was rich or not. Rather, when it comes to choosing between the two, he chose the wrong one. This displayed his attitude towards wealth. I must say many of our people having some career (especially in diasporas) get easily carried away by career mania and fail to live a life of their own with their family and friends.

Any one who put trust in wealth will do any thing to gather and preserve it. He may be some one who literally following all the commandments. But that will not make him eligible to have eternal life. Eternal life goes beyond material and worldly processions and keeping some law or statute. Keeping the commandment is a positive way of keeping dependent relationship with God. It is worth noting that following this passage (vs. 18-30) Jesus is seen talking about his passion through which he displayed his readiness to let everything he had, including his life, go for the sake of eternal life for others. That was His way of keeping the commandment of His Father. Only the one who is able to let what he clings on to go, can attain eternity. This is the true liberation or salvation. Liberation is detachment from worldliness and attachment to God and His creation.

In this context Peter’s statement (v.28) becomes a statement about the correct attitude of a disciple of Jesus. Jesus’ reply to such an attitude (vs.28, 30) tells us something about eternity and Kingdom of God. It is experienced in the context of a community and will lead to a state beyond this material world. The implication is that some one who holds wealth in high regard will not be able to have a loving and caring community around. This situation will deprive that person of eternity. It is good to read about Cain’s cry before God who said, ‘I have become a wandering person, a fugitive and vagabond and any one who sees me will kill me’ (Gen. 4:13, 14). Kingdom of God is experienced in dynamic fellowship with one another and attachment to wealth and material processions will prevent people from having this kind of fellowship.

The ruler may be like the one talked about in Luke 14:1 ff., a proud and rich person who follows the law, but fails to recognize and respect others. Eternal life is equated with Kingdom of God. The casual use of the term “good” is not well accepted by Jesus. The ruler did not have to use it on Jesus as it was inherent in Him. A teacher can only be good teacher and God is the only teacher. There shall not be any ‘not so good teacher’ or ‘bad teacher’.  By presenting this event, Luke was making a comparison between what is and what should be. Same is the purpose of the Church in choosing this passage for our meditation during the season. A person who lives by Christian principles and by the culture of the cross will sure take serious note of this comparison. The Pharisees were custodians of the law but never understood the spirit of the law. They were rich and were proud of that, but did not know the real use of it (Luke 16:14; 16:9). Jesus criticizes them for so foolish. Christians, on the contrary, are to be more concerned of submitting themselves to the mind of God on a daily basis.  One can be saved only by trusting in God and following his will, because He is the one who grants ‘eternal life’.

C B I Interrogates Thomas I


This is probably for the first time in the history of Kerala Churches, a head of a denomination was interrogated by police and that itself by Central Bureau of Investigation, in connection with a murder case. Has any one got a comment?

See these:

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